From April 2023, the International Criminal Court will have a new Registrar when Osvaldo Zavala Giler assumes office for a period of five years.
The court’s judges elected the new official by an absolute majority by secret ballot on Friday, 10, 2023, and he is set to take over from Peter Lewis, who exits on April 16, 2023.
Giler is a national of Ecuador with vast experience at the ICC. He has served at the court for the past 16 years in different capacities.
According to a press release from the court, he has served as the chief of the Budget Section at the ICC and in other capacities, including as a senior special assistant to the Registrar and Head of Office of the court’s liaison office to the United Nations in New York.
He is a founding member of the Sexual and Gender Diversity Network at the court.
Prior to his work at the ICC, he worked as a legal officer, legal adviser, and liaison officer to the United Nations for the Coalition for the International Criminal Court.
Speaking to Journalists For Justice prior to Giler’s election, Maria Elena Vignoli, Senior International Justice Counsel at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said the ICC Registrar plays a crucial role in ensuring the court effectively and efficiently delivers its mandate and urged the judges to elect the most highly qualified individual.
She noted that a number of innovations have brought more transparency to the process of identifying the Registrar and cited the public roundtables civil society organisations had with the candidates. She added that the election this year should benefit from these developments.
“The development of an ad hoc due diligence procedure as part of assessing the candidates’ moral character also represents an important step toward a permanent vetting mechanism for all ICC elections,” she said.
There have been concerns about the geographical representation of the ICC’s top positions – the President of the court, the Prosecutor, and the Registrar – commonly referred to as the principals. Currently, the ICC President, Judge Piotr Hofmański (Polish), is from the Eastern European Group while Prosecutor Karim Khan and outgoing Registrar Lewis, both British, are from the Western European and Others Group (WEOG). The other three major United Nations regional groups – African Group, Asia and the Pacific Group, and Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) – were not represented. However, GRULAC now has a representative in the new Registrar.
Although supporters of fair geographic representation backed the enhanced election process, they acknowledged that having a Registrar from Africa would bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the ICC. Africa is home to many of the world’s most complex and challenging conflict situations and a Registrar from the continent would bring a unique perspective to the ICC’s work in the region, they argued.
“A Registrar from Africa or similar underrepresented region will go a long way to strengthen the credibility of the ICC as a universal court,” Chino Edmund Obiagwu, chairman at the Nigeria Coalition for the International Criminal Court, told JFJ in an interview.
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He added that there is no shortage of well-qualified and highly recommended candidates from Africa who had been short-listed for the position.
Obiagwu explained that there is a poor perception of the ICC among some African people and institutions, and electing a Registrar from the region who is, among other things, in charge of outreach, would positively impact the continent’s relationship with the court.
Others supporting such views were of the opinion that having an African Registrar would serve to promote greater representation within the ICC and help to increase its credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of African states. Furthermore, it would demonstrate the court’s commitment to promoting diversity and inclusivity within its leadership.
The 10 candidates from whom the ICC judges chose were Juan Pablo Albán Alencastro (Ecuador), Fidelma Teresa Donlon (Ireland), Luis Mariano Hermosillo Sosa (Mexico), Pouraogo Julien Kouda (Burkina Faso), Christian Mahr (Japan), Gabrielle Louise McIntyre (Australia), Rosette Muzigo-Morrison (Uganda), Ibrahim James Pam (Nigeria), Marie Inger Tuma (Sweden), and Giler (Ecuador).
On June 17, 2022, the ICC Presidency presented to the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) a short list of 12 candidates prepared in consultation with the ICC judges after 88 individuals presented their applications.
According to Judge Hofmański, Amady Ba (Senegal) and Kate Mackintosh (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) withdrew their candidature on October 10, 2022.
The ASP, the annual meeting of ICC member states that was held in December 2022, made recommendations on the next ICC Registrar at its gathering. The role of the ASP in the election process is limited to providing a recommendation to the judges.
Giler will be responsible for the non-judicial aspects of the administration and servicing of the court. Outgoing Registrar Lewis was elected on March 28, 2018, and sworn in on April 17, 2018.
The court has had four holders of the office – three men and one woman, all nationals of the WEOG regional group.
This story has been updated to reflect the new developments after the election of the ICC Registrar.